Trump’s Long, Long History of Threats, Denial and Intimidation

Trump has a long history of using Mafioso tactics and threats to get his way

This past week, the January 6th commission speculated publicly that witnesses appearing before the committee have received vaguely threatening phone calls. Basically, messages to the effect of “we’re watching everything you do and say” and “you’d better be loyal.”

This is not surprising, given Donald Trump’s long track record of using threats, punishment, abuse, insinuation, intimidation and downright violence to get his way.

The list below, while not exhaustive, is certainly exhausting. Over many decades Trump used his wealth to bully, intimidate and threaten people. When he began running for office, the threats escalated in both frequency and magnitude, to the point that a tired press just offered up calm fact-checks and maybe a little ridicule.

Trump threatened Hillary Clinton with a firing squad, and threatened to have MSNBC commentator Joe Scarborough investigated for murder. And that was just because he was offended.

Imagine how Trump, with his long history of threatening competitors, officials and even family, is reacting to an actual threat of conviction and prison. Not to mention the embarrassment and humiliation of having his attempted coup dissected on prime time television.

Can there be any doubt, any doubt at all, that Donald Trump has engaged in, and will continue to engage in witness tampering? He can’t help himself. This is who he is.

A bankruptcy attorney who represented Trump Entertainment Resorts investors once received a phone call warning him “if you keep fucking with Mr. Trump, we know where you live and we’re going to your house for your wife and kids.”

A New York City housing commissioner told the NYPD his life was threatened for refusing to grant a $20 million tax abatement for the construction of Trump Tower.

Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, told Daily Beast reporters that he would “mess your life up” before they published a story saying Trump made his first wife feel “violated” during sex.


Trump paid $45,000 for full page ads in the New York Times featuring his now-famous wildly capitalized rants calling for the DEATH PENALTY for the “Chicago Five” — five young black men who were arrested for the rape and assault of a white banker jogging in Central Park.

Years later, DNA evidence pointed to an entirely different man — a serial rapist — who confessed to the attack. The young men received a $40 million settlement from the city.

Trump still refuses to apologize or admit he was wrong. When pressed in 2016 on the issue, he said “you have people on both sides of that.”


In 1989, three Trump Organization executives died in a helicopter crash. In 1991, a former Trump employee, John O’Donnell, wrote a book called Trumped! in which he claimed that Trump not only tried to capitalize on the tragedy by claiming that he was scheduled to board the flight (he wasn’t), Trump also tried to blame his deceased employees for his then-current financial woes.

Additionally, O’Donnell wrote that Trump was irrational, and ignorant of basic facts regarding the casino business.

Trump’s response in 1999:

The guy’s a fucking loser. A fucking loser. I brought the guy in to work for me; it turns out he didn’t know that much about what he was doing. I think I met the guy two or three times total. And this guy goes off and writes a book about me, like he knows me!”


Trump objected, in a hearing, to a Native American casino on the basis that “They don’t look Indian to me.” He said it over and over again and accused gaming commissioners of giving Native Americans priority because they only “look” Indian.

Trump also lashed out at his competitors by characterizing the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe of New York as drug traffickers, and he accused the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation of Connecticut of not being authentic and claimed the tribal casino industry was going to be overrun by organized crime.

Native American casinos had consistently disastrous relationships with Trump, to the point that Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians in California terminated a costly partnership with Trump after just three years. In 2011, the Cowlitz Tribe in Washington State turned him down cold, even after this pleading letter, signed by Donald J. Trump himself.


A 1995 lawsuit describes a situation in which Trump’s body man, Matt Calamari, and a group of “security” guards burst into the office of an employee and physically detained the employee’s wife and 12-year-old son for nearly two hours.

The employee, Trump building superintendent Daut “Bob” Bajrushi, was scheduled to appear before a Trump Tower board of directors, where he was going to reveal proof of illegal activity and graft by Trump Organization principals that was costing the condominium owners hundreds of thousands of dollars. Bajrushi fell ill and was hospitalized a few days before the hearing, and asked his wife to go to his office and retrieve the files he needed.

Calamari shoved the boy, who burst into tears, and grabbed Mrs. Bajrushi’s purse away from her, telling the other men to rifle through it. Calamari and Trump’s brother-in-law James Grau interrogated, pushed, and threatened both the woman and child, detaining them illegally for hours, until Bajrushi sent a friend, an attorney, and eventually the police to liberate them.


After Trump’s father died, and the will was read, his brother Fred’s children discovered that Trump had written them out of the will, and they sued Trump and his siblings for fraud. In retaliation, Trump cancelled his nephew’s health insurance and removed all funds that had been set aside by Trump Sr. (his father) for their infant baby’s care. The baby had seizures and cerebral palsy.

This coverage was crucial for Freddy’s grandson (Donald’s grandnephew), who suffered from seizures and later developed cerebral palsy. So crucial, in fact, that a letter sent from a (Fred Sr.) Trump lawyer to the insurer after the patriarch’s death in 1999 said that “all costs” for the sick child’s care should be covered, regardless of caps on the plan or medical necessity, according to Johnston. That didn’t last long.

A week after the lawsuit was filed in court, Freddy’s son (Donald’s nephew) received a letter informing him that the health insurance would be discontinued, meaning his ill son would be left without coverage. Donald openly admitted to the New York Daily News that he and his siblings took this action out of revenge.


Trump approved ads written by his then-consultant Roger Stone, that looked like articles, but were really racially-biased attack propaganda directed at Native Americans competing for casinos in areas he wanted to control.

2016 to present

And, of course, during his entire tenure in the White House he alternately cajoled and threatened both perceived enemies and former associates. This included public threats against Michael Cohen’s family that Mueller said were at least partially meant to “discourage” Cohen from cooperating because Cohen might implicate him in wrongdoing.

Throughout his presidency, the avalanche of threats and punishments were so constant that the media has had to compile master lists, like this one at CNN and this list at Salon.


In 2017, Trump threatened to use his position as President of the United States to cancel a treaty and impose tariffs on Panama (an entire nation, mind you), if Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela refused to intercede to stop the Trump Organization (his personal business) from being evicted from a 70-story waterfront hotel, and from being indicted for tax fraud.

Between mentioning a treaty and insinuating that the US would hold the Panamanian government accountable, the message is clear: Give the US President back his hotel, and drop all investigations or you’ll all be sorry.

It didn’t work. President Varela did not respond to the letter, and the arbitrator found in favor of Ithaca Capital. Government charges on tax evasion and tax fraud are still pending.


Trump threatened Michael Wolff, author of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” and his publisher, demanding that they not only “cease and desist” but that they apologize to Trump.

Legal experts and historians said the decision by a sitting president to threaten “imminent” legal action against a publishing house, a journalist and a former aide represented a remarkable break with recent precedent and could have a chilling effect on free-speech rights.

Trump has no filter. Ever. He has no grasp of legal concepts, constitutional rights, or limits. And as seen in the Panama incident, he also assumes that power is permission.

He has no reason to stop. Unless we give him one.



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Mary Baker

Mary Baker

Freelance writer. Conservative-leaning, mostly moderate Independent. Libra. Loves good food and wine.